How many times have you heard someone say, “I love all animals”? This seems to be a cliché that is tossed around all too frequently, when in fact, loving and understanding an animal is completely different from admiring them from a distance. Loving an animal unconditionally, means understanding their every mood, need and habit. Knowing what is best for these creatures (and not necessarily yourself) and being selfless enough to give it to them. Nevertheless, in order to know what is best for a wild animal that is kept in captivity, you truly have to work with one, and this should be a privilege. Sadly, this is not the case in Zimbabwe, where private animal collections are feeling the brunt of the economic meltdown. Starvation, poor enclosure conditions, physical & mental abuse seem to be the order of the day. It is now a war of a different kind that we face daily in this stricken country – a fight against cruelty. With so much human tragedy abounding, the welfare of animals always takes second place and people meet their misery out on the fellow creatures, sometimes even in ignorance. What is even more frustrating though is that it does not have to be like this. There are still organisations and individuals who work tirelessly to protect and save all animals and these people need to be given more authority to effect the changes that need to take place.
What brings us to this point is the following sad set of events;
On Saturday 21 March 2009, the Tikki Hywood Trust received a juvenile genet. This terrified creature was brought to us after a call from ZNSPCA, asking if we would be prepared to take it. We at the Tikki Hywood Trust, have worked with the ZNSPCA over the past ten years when ever there has been a cruelty case regarding wildlife. At the Trust we have developed milk formulas, husbandry and management techniques to maintain and breed genet successfully in captivity. We are also prepared to share our information with who ever inquires, our aim is to ensure that all creatures are treated with dignity and respect if they have to remain captive.
After an informal investigation by a respected member of the public, the ZNSPCA was informed of animals and birds that were being kept in undesirable conditions at the Kuimba Shiri Bird Park, a private collection which is situated just outside of Harare city centre. Apparently, the baby genet was being hand-raised by a member of staff and was not on display. To our horror when he/she arrived, she was still in the bird cage that he/she had been kept in all along. This was a birdcage measuring 61 cm x 31cm x 31 cm. The only other thing in the cage with the little creature was a small, dirty towel that was rancid with the smell of urine and fear. Nothing can quite describe the whirlpool of emotions; desperation at the poor little baby pacing frantically in cage where her/his toes push through the bars, unbelievable rage at the people who have done this and THINK IT IS OK?!! Why does this have to happen when there are always alternatives? Why does yet another innocent creature have to suffer immeasurably for human self-gratification?
There are so many questions one could ask, but sadly, no answer will truly be satisfactory. All we do know is that organisations such as ourselves are the ones continually picking up the pieces and trying to help injured, orphaned, and abused animals and return some form of dignity and quality to their lives.
We have yet to determine the gender of our latest arrival, due to his/her very frightened state and horrifying ordeal in such a young life. But all animals that come to us are named within the first 24 hours of being with us, so very diplomatically; this tiny viveriad has been christened “C.K.” (since all our new genet are named after perfumes) – which is androgynous enough to apply to either gender once we confirm it!
CK is definitely underweight and tiny, due to malnutrition. When first let out of the little cage you could clearly see that this was possibly the first time out of the cage for the little one in a very long time. The environment we had chosen was a very secure bathroom with all doors and windows sealed, too much stimulation would have caused problems, and we wanted her/him to feel safe. At the stage of receiving the genet, we were merely temporary custodians, until it could be deliberated, by the authorities as to what his/her fate would ultimately be. What we would like to see happen is that this genet is raised and then released back to a wild environment where it belongs.
Unfortunately, at this stage we cannot show you any pictures of C.K. – he/she is still far too nervous to intrude. However will show a picture of the prison that she was kept in…………..